Young Pitching Can Accelerate Cubs Timeline

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All we have heard about since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have taken over is a business plan and a baseball plan matching up and this magical time of “the plan” all coming together.  The baseball side of that has revolved around Javier Baez, who Epstein and Hoyer inherited, followed by Albert Almora, then Jorge Soler, and last summer added Kris Bryant to the mix.  As this off-season has moved on, we’ve been told not to expect these kids to come up and everything to be cured instantly because it just doesn’t work that way.  And that is all true.  Typically, position players are not going to come up and be studs everyday from the start (See: Rizzo, Anthony).

Pitching, on the other hand, can do that.  And, contrary to what you’ve heard (which is almost nothing), the Cubs actually have some pretty solid young arms that can make this rebuild a little shorter while the young bats get their feet under them. While the ERA statistic is not a perfect representation of how good an individual pitcher is, there is still some value to it.  Consider that the top five NL teams in ERA in 2013 were the Braves, Dodgers, Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals, in that order, and then consider that the five NL playoff teams were the Braves, Dodgers, Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals.  Seven of the top ten in team ERA in the majors were in the playoffs, with the outliers being Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Boston.  The point is, pitching is the key to winning over a long season and in the playoffs because good pitching can shut down good hitting.

Travis Wood, Jake Arrieta, Jeff Samardzija, CJ Edwards, Pierce Johnson, and Arodys Vizcaino are all very talented.  The potential addition of Masahiro Tanaka would serve to boost the rotation immediately while waiting for some of the prospects to come up, and the June draft is pretty deep in quality college pitching, should the Cubs choose to go that route with the fourth pick.  And while there will be some ups and downs, pitchers tend to figure it out fairly quickly, and if they have the stuff, they tend to be good immediately.  The Cubs do not have anyone of the quality of Clayton Kershaw (nor does anyone else, for that matter), but he came up at 20 and is the best pitcher in the game right now…and he’s 25!

The Cubs do however, have three pitchers in their top ten prospects, according to Baseball America.

Interestingly, CJ Edwards is rated higher than Almora or Soler in these rankings, which come on the heels of a season where Edwards, acquired in the Matt Garza trade to Texas, allowed one home run in 116.1 innings, while leading the Daytona Cubs to a Florida State League Championship.  Adding Arodys Vizcaino, who the Braves deemed untouchable until he had Tommy John surgery, and Pierce Johnson, who slipped in the 2012 Draft due to a forearm strain, makes the core pitching prospects only slightly less impressive, in my mind, than the high end hitting prospects.  It is a lack of depth in the farm that is the issue with pitching, although Neil Ramirez, Duane Underwood, and Paul Blackburn are all prospects, in their own right.  Coupling these players with the “buy in bulk” philosophy of drafting pitchers that this front office has employed in both 2012 and 2013, there stands to be no shortage of pitchers in the system.  And as 48th round pick, CJ Edwards can tell you, a good pitching prospect can come from anywhere.

There is good reason to be excited about the hitters that are working their ways through the farm.  Because. as Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will tell you, “chicks dig the long ball”.  Or because maybe the rooftop owners will be less resistant to a jumbotron if Javier Baez and Kris Bryant make their buildings targets in batting practice.  But the guys who will put the Cubs back into contention and keep them there are pitchers.  And, contrary to what’s been said, the Cubs aren’t in dire straights there.

About Andy

Sometimes I write stuff about the Cubs. Sometimes it's even good. But don't get your hopes up. Basically, my writing is like the pre-2016 Chicago Cubs.

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